A couple years ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves were searching for a head coach. After suffering through two years of Kurt Rambis, there needed to be a change for the better if the team was going to go anywhere.
After searching the NBA far and wide for a solution, the Timberwolves started to lock in on Rick Adelman. As a two-time NBA finalist (1989-90 & 1991-92) with the Portland Trail Blazers, he fit the mold of a coach that could get the best effort out of his team. As Minnesota was struggling to get their pieces to fit into their puzzle, the addition of Adelman could be the last push to get this team over the edge.
The Adelman era started great as he lead a roster assembled by David Kahn to a 20-20 record through the first 40 games of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Just as the Timberwolves were looking to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004, Ricky Rubio jammed his knee while trying to guard Kobe Bryant.
The diagnosis was a torn ACL, which signaled the turning point of Adelman’s tenure with the team.
Since Rubio shredded his knee on March 9, 2012, the Timberwolves have had a record of 71-105. A lot of that can be attributed to the disastrous dealings of Kahn and key injuries, but as Minnesota fades away from the playoff race, it’s time for Adelman to take part of the blame.
Adelman is a great coach, but he’s stubborn in his ways. If you can’t play in his system, he’s not going to play you. For example, the Timberwolves drafted Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng in last June’s NBA Draft. If you’re not familiar with these names, it’s because Adelman has demanded they pay their dues and rewarded them with less than 10 minutes per game (9.3 MPG for Dieng, 8.0 for Muhammad).
It would be one thing if the Timberwolves had legitimate talent blocking their path, but with Chase Budinger (17.9 MPG) and Robbie Hummel (10.2) getting playing time, it’s a head scratcher as to why Adelman didn’t look to his rookies sooner for a much needed boost.
The boost came too late as the Timberwolves have failed to gain ground on the other teams in the Western Conference while Muhammad (who had 20 points in a victory over Phoenix on Feb. 26) and Dieng (who became the first rookie in team history with a 20/20 game March 20 at Houston) have shown flashes of potential in increased playing time.
Adelman has also succumbed to the curse that is the Timberwolves franchise. The Timberwolves defense has slowly gotten worse as the season has dragged on and it seems on a regular basis that Adelman throws his hands up and asks “What do you want me to do?” instead of opting to find a solution.
Even though Adelman is one of the most successful coaches in history, he can’t get anything out of a roster that’s been constructed to be long, athletic and short on basketball ability. It’s time for him to go.
Of course, there are scenarios that are preventing the move from happening. If the Timberwolves let Adelman go, who will replace him? Some have speculated that Iowa State coach and former Wolves guard Fred Hoiberg would welcome a move back to the NBA, but he has a successful situation in a city that refers to him as “The Mayor.”
Plus, it’s not like he (or anyone else) would want to come to the threshold of basketball hell. Minnesota has a horrible roster that could get worse thanks to Kahn and Flip Saunders’ dealings with little bargaining power toward free agents who would rather play in Los Angeles or Miami.
Speaking of Los Angeles, there’s the Kevin Love factor. After playing with Adelman’s son in high school, there is a favoritism that could keep Love around in hopes that the franchise could rebound. If the Timberwolves are the ones to fire Adelman, it’s likely Love would ask the team for the same fate in the form of a trade.
Then again, all signs continuously point to Love opting out of his contract after the 2014-15 season, so maybe handing Adelman his pink slip would be the best way to start
yet another a rebuilding project.